The right skill set is only one factor in finding the perfect candidate -- and arguably, in a fast-paced startup, it's at least equally as important as culture fit. How your potential hire complements your current employees can have a major impact on team morale and overall execution.
But interviewing is an imperfect process; having such a limited amount of time with each prospective employee makes it challenging to evaluate soft skills and personality. Luckily, many of our members from YEC have had considerable practice in this area, so we asked them to share the No. 1 question they use to assess a future employee's culture fit. Their best answers are below.
1. What's the greatest work day of your life?
I believe we found this question on LifeHacker and have found it to be an incredible tool for determining if an employee is going to be a good fit. The question asks the candidate to think about what it would be like to work for you and what is going to inspire them. If their "greatest day" doesn't reflect our "purpose" for them, they aren't likely a good match for us.--Joshua Dorkin, BiggerPockets
2. What was the best way you delegated a task?
I don't like to work with the constant enforcement of work hierarchy, which means that all of the employees that I hire won't be entry-level or even "lower-level" at all. I'm hiring future leaders. So when I ask them the question, "What's the best way you delegated a task?" I'm really asking them how they lead. I learn through their answer whether they're up to the leadership tasks.--Rob Fulton, Audio Luminaries
3. What was a time you didn't know how to do something?
The space we're in is incredibly fast-paced. With new technologies and platforms launching every day, there's a lot to know. We need to make sure everyone that joins the team has strong problem-solving abilities and can think on their feet. So the question I always ask is "Can you tell me about a time when you were tasked with something you didn't know how to do, and how you overcame it?"--Michael King, IPullRank
4. What is teamwork to you?
I ask each and every employee what teamwork is to them, but I tend to have them answer this question in front of the other team members they would be working with. This allows the appropriate team members to decide if the candidate is the right fit for them. I've found that they weed people out a lot better than I ever could!--John Rampton, Due
5. How would you fly a helicopter full of peanuts?
Make up your own insane question. Ask it right in the middle of your list of normal interview questions. This helps you assess the candidate's critical thinking and management skills. Do they ask too many qualifying questions or not enough? Is their solution in alignment with your core values? Crazy questions create a very real environment that the candidate can't prepare for.--Adam Roozen, Echidna, Inc.
6. What can your hobbies tell me that your resume can't?
As a LEGO rental business, we are always looking for creative people. If I interview an engineer whose only interest is coding, we might get an exceptional coder, but one that can't really help the team overcome the many challenges we face on a daily basis. We are looking for people with broad interests, and free-time activities can show us that.--Ranan Lachman, Pley
7. What are your 3 ideal job qualities?
I always ask candidates to tell me the top three most important things about their ideal job. Their answers can tell you a lot. For example, if one of the three is not financially oriented, this person may not have a good sense of measuring their work and time.--Samira Far, Bellacures Franchising LLC
8. If you won a million dollars in the lottery, what would you do with the money?
There is really no right or wrong answer here, but rather a glimpse into how this person will manage. The amount is significant enough for them to think about what they would do with it. You may get honest and quick answers upon asking, but I find that how they handle a million dollars says a lot about their character.--Souny West, CHiC Capital
9. If you could open your own business, what would it be and why?
I think this question is effective at gaining a bit of an understanding into the entrepreneurial spirit of the candidate. Successful team members in our company are entrepreneurs at heart. They're proactive and they appreciate the notion of putting their whole selves into what they do.--Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture
10. What is one thing you believe that most people do not?
This is the question that Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and lead investor in Facebook, asks all prospective hires. The idea is to gauge a candidate's ability to think independently, regardless of what popular beliefs might be. The very best employees are the ones who come up with the valuable ideas and breakthroughs that no one else will, and this question screens for that potential.--Sathvik Tantry, FormSwift
11. How well do you adapt to change?
Startups are constantly evolving. Change doesn't have to mean a major pivot. It can mean a new office, a rapidly expanding staff, or a broader set of employee responsibilities and expectations than originally expected. Each member of your team needs to be open to evolving alongside your business. Make sure a candidate has the soft skills to handle the rapid pace of change at your company.--Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares
12. What personality traits do you butt heads with?
I often tell the story about when I was young and found the one personality that I'd butt heads with. In turn, I ask, "What kind of personality or specific character trait seems to rub you the wrong way?" The answer often reveals the type of person they won't get along with and, as such, if they'll struggle to connect with the people in our company.--David Ciccarelli, Voices.com
13. What are you passionate about?
Finding someone who can combine a mission-driven mindset and a creative, can-do attitude is key to fitting in with the ThinkCERCA team. Our mission is at the core of everything we do, so we ask interviewees about why education is important to them personally. We also spend the last 10 minutes just getting to know them as a person.--Abby Ross, ThinkCERCA